never learned the propper technique.
at the malt shoppe 
the red & white checker board floor
caught ice cream smear & scuff.
i loved working there because it felt like
acting-- i would imagine a young girl i could be.
simple black heels. picnic table print dress. 
red lips. mind gathered cloud-like in tulle.
but, by closing time, that game would fade 
& i would want desperately to escape
my uncanny dinner-plate face 
reflected back at me 
in the ice cream freezer window. 
one college girl i worked with said, "like this"
& she'd rub the mop 
in circles across the ground, 
dragging the bucket behind her 
like a tired dog. she'd stack her tips
in adjacent piles. i always thought
they looked like row homes.
another boy told me 
i rung the mop too much. instead,
his mop slopped on the floor like
spilled chilli. he left puddles behind
&, while he took apart the soft serve machine,
i'd go back over the mess he'd made
using a dry mop. what is being a girl 
but always trying rectrify? once, i closed up
with the owner. a bald older man.
he watched me while i mopped & corrected me 
as i went. he said, "ring it out more."
"squeeze it harder." "no softer."
"you have to press down." i did 
everything he said. we had closed later
after a rush of post baseball game players.
finished, i walked home up the street
towards my parents house. moved 
in circles. in the shower, scrubbed
cream from under nails. a check board 
unfurling in my heart. skipping
white spaces. perched on red. 
dragging the bucket.

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